To Read: Walter Russell Mead thinks that the US' new 'modest plan for the Middle East' which the NYT reported about yesterday is actually quite ambitious-
This is actually a strategy of breathtaking ambition. US administrations have tried for decades to reach an understanding with Iran, and from the time of the Balfour Declaration to the present day ending the Arab-Israeli conflict has been the impossible dream of diplomats all over the world. As for mitigating the horrors in Syria, the administration so far has had absolutely no success at that—and if anything the consequence of its peculiar mix of saber rattling rhetoric and practical passivity has been to make a bad situation significantly worse.
Quote: “They're going to find other friends. I argue that's not good for the United States”, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, one of several Republican Lawmakers who are calling for the mending of relations with Saudi Arabia.
Number: 10, the number of Presidential elections influential Pentagon guru Andrew W. Marshall has survived in his position (which is now threatened by the sequester).
To Read: Former Palestinian negotiator Nabeel Kassis argues that recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is not a basic demand that the Palestinians must cede to-
Despite the fact that the Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years — with no reciprocal recognition by Israel of the state of Palestine — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now added the issue of recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” as a precondition for any agreement. He is the first Israeli prime minister to make such a demand, and it has largely been recognized for what it is — an attempt to undermine the negotiations and ensure that no agreement is reached.
Quote: “This is the best security cooperation we’ve had in years. The Palestinian security forces are much more professional than in the past and they are not political”, Shlomo Brom, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies and a retired brigadier general in the Israeli army, commenting on the current state of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
Number: 26, Israel has released the names of the 26 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released.
The Middle East
Headline: Brahimi arrives in Damascus amid clashes
To Read: Marwan Bishara analyzes the possible effects of a US-Iran détente on the Arab world-
Improved relations between Iran and America could offer benefits: a lifting of Western sanctions and American recognition (however grudging) of Iran’s growing regional influence, starting with Syria, Bahrain and the Gulf region. The United States could use Iran’s help to stabilize Syria — as it helped with Afghanistan after 9/11.
But sooner than later, what appears to be a great diplomatic breakthrough may be revealed to be no more than hopping over a volcano.
That’s because Iranian-American détente will likely deepen the sectarian divisions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, setting the stage for an all-out regionwide sectarian conflict.
Quote: "closure of the tunnels caused heavy losses to the industry, commerce, agriculture, transport and construction sectors", Hatem Oweida, deputy economy minister for Hamas, describing the effects of the closing of the tunnels to Gaza on the strip's economy (a drawback of $230m a month, according to Hamas)
Number: 80, the number of lashes which 4 Iranian men were reportedly sentenced to for drinking communion wine and owning a satellite.
The Jewish World
Headline: Musician Lou Reed dies at 71
To Read: Jonathan Tobin believes that (what he sees as) American Jewry's existential crisis is the direct result of the warm embrace they have received from American society-
The existential crisis that threatens the future of American Jewry has only been made possible by this nation’s embrace of the Jewish people. There is no social or economic penalty to be paid in this country for making an open showing of Jewish identity. Jews face almost no difficulty making friends with non-Jews, working with non-Jews, playing with non-Jews, socializing with non-Jews—or marrying non-Jews.
Quote: “Of course, aren’t all the best people?”, Lou Reed's response when asked if he was Jewish.
Number: 360, Congregation Nidhe Israel in Barbados is turning 360, making it the oldest Jewish community in the Western Hemisphere.